Laverne Cox Talks Female Critics, Intersectionality and OITNB

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend a talk given by Laverne Cox, an LGBT advocate and award-winning actress most renowned for her role as Sophia in the Netflix original TV series ‘Orange is the New Black’. She focused largely on her experience as a working class, African-American transgender woman in the south of the United States. Here’s a summary of some of the things I found particularly interesting during her talk:

Women’s History

Without a doubt, one of the most notable parts of her talk was her discussion of the different female critics that have influenced her and helped her during her transition. Some of the women she named included Sojourner Truth, Bell Hooks, Judith Butler and Brené Brown. She talked about some of the theories that these women presented. The title of her presentation, for example, came from Truth’s asking, “Ain’t I a Woman?”. Cox also highlighted Brown’s shame theory and how she felt like there was something wrong with her. The Dangers Faced by Transwomen

One of the most important issues which Cox shed light on was the danger faced by transwomen: both the psychological and physical harm that is being imposed on them in today’s society. Transwomen are facing violence in every corner of their lives, from the physical violence enacted through hate crimes to the violence that transwomen inflict upon themselves by committing acts like suicide as they continue to feel ashamed of their gender. She notes that misgendering someone is also a form of violence that can lead to serious psychological problems.


Knowing about how different social identities intersect was also a key point she made. Cox not only faced discrimination because of her gender and sexuality, but also faced discrimination for her race and class. She mentioned that throughout her time in middle school (late primary school) she felt ashamed of her gender and sexuality. To deal with this, she concentrated her energy on her schoolwork and became an overachieving student. Once she went to college, however, Cox felt that she was further discriminated against for her race and class. Talking about all of these issues reminded me of the different privileges that we have and how vital it is to remember them in dealing with the issues that she conveyed.


Now most of you probably clicked on this article hoping to find out some juicy information on the newest season of ‘Orange is the New Black’. Unfortunately, Cox couldn’t really talk about the filming of the upcoming season and avoided the previous seasons because she didn’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t caught up (I’m ashamed to say I’m one of those who is still behind!). But what did she say was that filming episode 12 of season 3 was one of the most remarkable experiences she has ever had, and that the story highlighted by the episode is one that we should take note of.

Edited by Tia Ralhan

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